One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to the US, was the fact that many Americans do not use a variety of spices and seasonings (other than salt and pepper) to season their food. In the Caribbean where I’m from, we tend to use an overabundance of seasonings in our food. To our minds the more spices and herbs, the better and the more tasty the food.
Spices and seasonings don’t only impart flavor to dishes, they also have medicinal and other nutrients that are highly beneficial for our bodies. In this post I’m going to share some spices, herbs and other seasonings that should be a part of your pantry and that will have you consistently preparing meals that are as healthy as they are delicious.
I have recently rediscovered the wonderful spice blend that is garam masala. Garam masala is an Indian spice mix of several ground spices that vary depending on the flavor profile one is seeking. I especially like the blend that is made up of coriander, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg and cloves. A lot of spices right? Let’s take a closer look at each spice in this blend and the health properties they each contain.
- Black Pepper – anti-oxidant, improves digestion, and enhances bio-availability of other spices and compounds.
- Coriander (seed of the cilantro plant) – anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol, anti-diarrheal, and aids in digestion.
- Cumin – promotes digestion, may help with diabetes and cholesterol, iron-rich and has anti-oxidants.
- Cinnamon – powerful anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
- Fennel – helps regulate blood pressure, improves brain function, boosts immunity, relieves indigestion and anti-flatulent
- Nutmeg – promotes digestion, anti-bacterial, supports liver function, anti-depressant and regulates blood pressure
- Cloves – improves oral health, improves digestion, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic
Just imagine, using just a tiny bit of this exotic spice blend will impart not only a great depth of flavor, but also a host of health benefits! The combination of the pungent spices in garam masala endows savoriness and brings out the essence of any food you prepare including meats, fish or vegetables.
Caribbean Green Seasoning
Green seasoning is a prerequisite in every Caribbean kitchen. Also known as sofrito in Latinx communities, green seasoning is composed of several aromatic herbs blended together with garlic, vinegar and hot pepper to make a pulpy paste. A basic recipe may contain scallions, broad leaf thyme, cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper (seeded), vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s no wonder we call it green seasoning! Some benefits of these ingredients are listed below.
- Fresh Herbs – anti-bacterial, boosts immunity, lowers blood sugar, reduces blood pressure, and much more.
- Scotch Bonnet – anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, boosts immunity and metabolism
- Vinegar – controls blood sugar, anti-microbial and may reduce cholesterol
The fresh herbs, pepper and vinegar combine to make this green seasoning that’s suitable for use on any kind of protein. It is especially delicious in pork, chicken, beef and fish. So how do we use green seasoning? It’s actually very easy to use and doesn’t require the addition of other spices when used to season meats.
You use green seasoning by pouring a generous amount over the meat, enough to cover all surface areas. Massage seasoning into meat and let marinade overnight for best results. After marination is complete, simply cook your meat in any way desired. Be it braised, stewed, fried, smoked or baked your food will come out delicious guaranteed!
Ginger is a pungent rhizome that is used in many cuisines including, Asian, Indian and Caribbean cooking. Ginger is commercially available as a paste or a dried powder but is best used fresh to enjoy its aromatic properties. Ginger is a warming spice that adds zest and a hint of spiciness to any dish. This remarkable root is not only delicious in stir-fries, rubs and marinades, it is also highly medicinal. Among the benefits of ginger:
- Relieves gastric distress
- Relieves nausea due to cancer treatment, motion sickness, pregnancy, etc.
- Anti-inflammatory and pain relieving
- Cold and flu relief (promotes sweating and warms the body from within)
- Pain reduction (good for muscle and menstrual pain)
Ginger is used chopped, crushed or grated into savory dishes, dried to used as a seasoning spice or for tea and is crystallized to make a delicious candy. Do you see now why you need this versatile spice in your life?
I can almost hear the snickers at the inclusion of the humble lemon pepper seasoning in this list of spices and seasonings. Don’t sleep on the lemon pepper, it has saved me on numerous occasions when I had to make something that was quick, healthy and delicious.
Lemon pepper seasoning is an all-purpose spice mix containing a blend of savory ingredients including onion, black pepper, basil, oregano, celery seed, bay leaf, savory, thyme, coriander, cayenne, mustard, rosemary, marjoram, garlic, lemon juice, lemon peel, lemon oil and chili pepper.
As you can see, lemon pepper seasoning is packed with complex, savory, lemony and herbaceous spices. This makes it the perfect seasoning for any dish. When I’m in a hurry I use a salt-free lemon pepper seasoning with a bit of salt on chicken, fish or lamb and then toss into my air-fryer for a quick dinner in 10 minutes.
Make sure you have lemon pepper seasoning in your pantry if nothing else, it will work for most savory dishes.
Make Delicious Food – Use Spices!
In my opinion, seasoning blends like lemon pepper and garam masala are the best way to incorporate spices and seasoning into your dishes. You save time because you don’t have to spend time buying and blending individual spices. Of course, you can always do that but I’d wager you’d prefer to save that time for enjoying dinner with your family.
Seasonings and spices impart more than flavor to food, they also add compounds and nutrients that are highly beneficial to our health. Using spices to season our dishes is another way we can enhance the healing properties of food. What spices do you use in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments. Until next time, Happy Eating!